High Bridge Trail
State Park in Southside Virginia is a rail trail converted
from a railway line last belonging to Norfolk Southern and having
originated as a portion of the Southside Railroad.
The first section of the trail opened in 2008
and the final section was completed in 2012. With a length of more
than thirty miles, the shared-use trail for bicyclists, pedestrians
and equestrians includes a restored crossing of the Appomattox River
at the historic High Bridge – from which the park derives its name.
The lineal park traverses Appomattox,
Nottoway, Cumberland, and Prince Edward counties as well as Pamplin
City, Prospect, Farmville, Rice and Burkeville. Where the trail
traverses Farmville, it directly adjoins Longwood University at the
campus' satellite housing and athletic site.
High Bridge had been built in 1854 across the
Appomattox River connecting Petersburg to Lynchburg. The bridge is
2,400 feet long and ranges from 60 to 125 feet (18 to 38 m) high. It
was originally made of wood, standing on 21 brick piers and included a
pedestrian walkway next to the tracks and a nearby wagon bridge.
During the American Civil War, both Union and Confederate forces
attempted to destroy the bridge to their advantage. Confederates
succeeded in setting the bridge on fire, but the fire apparently
self-extinguished, and the bridge was not repaired until 5 months
later. After the Battle of High Bridge and his surrender at
Appomattox, Robert E. Lee told the very men who had destroyed the
bridge – including civil engineer Major General William Mahone – to go
home and start its rebuilding.
Norfolk Southern's last train crossed High
Bridge on October, 26th 2004 – and in December 2006 the company
donated 31 miles (50 km) of abandoned rail to the Virginia Department
of Conservation and Recreation, managers of the Virginia State Park
system. Intended as a park with the High Bridge as its centerpiece,
the shared-use path for non-motorized traffic – pedestrians,
bicyclists, and horseback riders – would preserve and protect trail
resources while creating an education resource for local and national
With a total budget of an estimated $11
million, four miles of trail east of Farmville opened on Aug. 22, 2008
and 12 more miles from Farmville west to Prospect opened on June 6,
2009. On April 6, 2012, after completion of the final segment of the
trail, the restoration of the High Bridge itself, the trail opened for
the first time for its full length — 147 years after the Battle of
Having been privately owned and operated by Norfolk
Southern and offering only very limited access, the park area now
offers more than thirty miles of white limestone gravel trail open to
the public. Retaining the 6% grade of the original rail line, the
corridor features picnic, parking and toilet facilities as well as
large oak trees, telegraph poles erected in the 1900's, remnants of
the original rail's signal system – and Norfolk Southern's original
cement mile markers as official trail markers. Park rangers and local
police monitor the trail daily.
The trail receives community support from the
Friends of High Bridge Trail (FoHBTSP). Formed shortly after the
creation of the trail, the volunteer group supports the trail with
cleaning, publicity and citizen patrol efforts.
There are 12 picnic